The Assessment of Atrial Function in Single Ventricle Hearts from Birth to Fontan: A Speckle-Tracking Study by Using Strain and Strain Rate

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Single ventricle (SV) exercise performance is impaired and limited by reduced ventricular preload reserve. The atrium modulates ventricular filling, and enhancement of atrial compliance can increase cardiac performance. We aimed to study atrial mechanics in SV hearts across staged surgical palliation compared with healthy children by using novel speckle-tracking echocardiography techniques.


A cross-sectional study of 81 patients with SV (1 day to 6.5 years) at 4 stages of surgical palliation (presurgery, 22; prebidirectional cavopulmonary anastomosis, 23; pre-Fontan, 22; post-Fontan, 14). The dominant atrium was assessed with speckle-tracking echocardiography for active (εact), conduit (εcon), and reservoir (εres) strain; strain rate (SR); and εact/εres ratio before each stage of surgical palliation. Findings were compared with the left atrium of 51 healthy children (1 day to 5.5 years).


Single ventricle atrial size was increased (P < .01), and atrial εres was decreased (P < .01) compared with healthy controls. SV atrial εcon (P < .01) and SRcon (P < .0001) was decreased, increased εact persisted (P < .05), and εact/εres was increased (P < .001) between surgical stages. Although the expected maturational trend of increasing εcon, decreasing εact, and εact/εres occurred in SV, they lagged behind healthy maturational changes (P < .0001).


Single ventricle atrium is dilated, has deceased compliance, decreased early diastolic emptying, and increased reliance on active atrial contraction for ventricular filling. This deviates from normal early childhood maturational changes and appears to parallel those of an atrium facing early ventricular diastolic dysfunction.

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